Rosh Chodesh Kislev is the yahrtzeit of Chabad shluchim Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg, Hy”d, who were murdered during the November 26, 2008, terror attacks at Nariman House in Mumbai, India. Everyone has heard amazing stories of the Holtzbergs’ complete and utter self-sacrifice, day in and day out, until their tragic murders. But even after their passing, their legend – and their blessing – lives on with the following story, told by their brother-in-law, Mordechai Kaler.
The Kalers were married in March 2005 (5765) and anticipated, as most young couples do, that fairly soon they would be expecting a child. However, it soon became apparent that their path to parenthood was not going as smoothly as they had innocently imagined. After more than a year they were diagnosed with “unexplained infertility.” To a young couple in their early 20s, these words were quite scary. They traveled from doctor to doctor but were told the same thing after every visit, and every test led to more questions but never any answers. A few years passed and the pain of being childless became deeper and stronger. They tried fertility treatments but were unsuccessful, and they finally decided that after such emotionally, physically, and financially draining exercises in futility they needed to take some time to recuperate before attempting anything else. With little choice, they began to come to terms with the brutal reality that they may never become parents.
Throughout this entire process there were always two people who knew exactly when, how, and what to say to comfort them. Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg would speak to their brother- and sister-in-law to offer encouragement at every turn. The Kalers always found it inspirational and uplifting to hear the amazing stories that would take place at the Chabad House in Mumbai. On 18 Elul 5768, Mordechai spoke to Gabi and informed him of their intention to take some time off from the fertility treatments. But Gabi was insistent. He spent close to an hour trying to convince the Kalers to do the exact opposite. He insisted they call Bonei Olam, an organization whose mission is to assist every Jewish couple in overcoming infertility and realize the dream of parenthood, and the Kalers finally relented. They told him they would call, and Gabi ended the call by blessing them with a “gut gebentched yur,” assuring them that this coming year they will be blessed with a child.
As promised, the Kalers made the phone call to Bonei Olam and were quickly taken in. They will never forget the compassion with which the organization handled every aspect of their situation. They were set up with a great doctor and immediately began treatments again. The first few were unsuccessful, and the doctor recommended a more invasive approach. The Kalers were despondent and hesitant to continue, but throughout the entire process the Holtzbergs in Mumbai were constantly cheering them on and continuously advising them to carry on and never give up. And so, they pressed on.
The first of the invasive treatments was scheduled for November 26, 2008. As they were driving to the appointment that afternoon, they received a call from a family member that something was happening in Mumbai and no one can get in touch with Gabi or Rivky. They debated whether to continue to the appointment or immediately turn around and head back, but after much deliberation they decided to go to the appointment. It was not long after they left the doctor’s office when they heard of the terror attack in Mumbai, and a day later the horrifying news of Gabi and Rivky’s murder. They were devastated.
The turmoil and sadness that ensued is beyond description, but to put salt on the wound, when they returned home they were notified that an additional round of treatment would be necessary. They almost gave up right then and there, but after speaking with their case manager from Bonei Olam, he made them realize that it was Gabi and Rivky who pushed them this far and they cannot give up on account of what happened. As incredibly difficult as it was, they made another appointment for the final cycle of treatments. It took every ounce of faith and determination to go to the appointment.
And then, they got the call. “Congratulations! Your test came back positive! You are expecting!” It was absolutely unbelievable! Nine and a half months later, a baby girl was born – on 18 Elul 5769 – exactly one year to the day after Gabi Holtzberg had blessed them! They named their baby Rivkah after their sister-in-law. May their holy and pure neshamos plead before the Almighty on behalf of all of klal Yisrael.